It's been a tumultuous lobby term this year in the West Virginia House of Delegates as they considered several bills that affect the public, like the right to sell raw milk, home-school laws, and the ability of someone without a concealed gun permit to carry a concealed weapon legally in the state of West Virginia. According to the Charleston Gazette, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the no-permit concealed carry bill on Thursday (HB4145), saying his veto was "for the safety of law enforcement officers and for all West Virginians."
Sheriffs Associations have been against the bill en masse, citing the fact it would make it easier for law enforcement officers to be shot because they could not see who is carrying a gun. Many lobbyists in favor of the bill say this argument makes no sense. Art Thomm, the vice president of the West Virginia Citizen's Defense League who wrote WV HB4145 along with WVCDL President Keith Morgan and other members of WVCDL, was pleased that the House overrode Governor Tomblin's veto. Thomm spoke about the House's decision and why the bill is expected to decrease crime.
"This is a great piece of legislation. Please know, it will change nothing about who can and cannot possess a firearm. This bill will not enable criminals to lawfully carry a gun. This law changes nothing about the background process to obtain a firearm or a permit. This law, in its most simplistic explanation, simply allows a person to wear a coat when they previously would have needed a permit to do so. Several other states have similar laws and crime has continued to decrease (in those states). Law abiding people should not have to rent their rights from the government!"
The bill, which is endorsed by the NRA-ILA, previously passed the House of Delegates with a bipartisan 68-31 vote and the Senate with a bipartisan 24-9 vote. After Governor Tomblin vetoed the bill, the House overrode the veto, and now HB4145 is on its way back to the Senate, where they are expected to override the veto as well.
Proponents of the bill say that the Constitution guarantees that a United States citizen has the legal right to bear arms and that it is unconstitutional for states to force a citizen to "buy back" their rights to carry a concealed weapon. Often, the fee for a concealed carry permit is $100 or more, and supporters of the bill say this is a significant problem for many, as West Virginia is an impoverished state overall, and many people cannot afford to pay that fee. They also state that the threat to law enforcement officials is already there, and this bill will only make them more alert to possible danger. Law enforcement officers are professionally trained to treat every person as though they are potentially carrying a weapon, so this bill should not change their work environment.
The West Virginia House of Delegates, who passed HB4145 in February, was in favor of the bill by a significant majority. The bill currently states that individuals aged 18 to 20 would need to have a permit to be able to carry a concealed weapon, but no other individuals who are legally able to possess a firearm would need a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which many proponents of the bill call "constitutional carry."
The West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL), West Virginia's largest pro-gun lobbying group, is a non-partisan, non-profit, all-volunteer, grassroots organization of West Virginians who support the individual right to bear arms for defense of self, family, home, and state, as well as for lawful hunting and recreational use. They cite this right as being guaranteed by Article III, §22 of the West Virginia Constitution and the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Keith Morgan, the president of West Virginia Citizens Defense League, encourages people to become involved with their state's law-making process, and that individual calls to senators are important to let them know your stance on the bill.
"The Senate convenes at 9 AM tomorrow. We are optimistic about the votes for an override, but be sure to call your senator and ask for his or her support. Also, if they take up the vote tomorrow, it will be the final vote. I plan on attending. This will be history made before our eyes."
[Image via WVCDL Facebook Page]